Limni woke to soft blue light pressing against her eyes. Her lips slipped into a smile. The sky outside her window was that special shade of blue, the one her mother and father and sister couldn’t see. Like the nectar squeezed out of a twilight cloud. She leapt to her feet and slipped on her night dress hung her moonstone pendant around her neck. Then she bounded down the stairs.
“Lim?” said her father from the couch as she ran past. His eyes never left the television. “Is that you?”
“Yes, daddy,” Limni said as she put on her silver shoes.
“Where are you going, sweety?”
“Outside,” she said. “The special blue is coating the sky.”
“Now?” said father. “It’s awfully late.”
“The special blue is in the sky,” she repeated.
“Um, okay,” he said. “Just don’t go far, okay?”
“I won’t, daddy,” she said, grinning. It was both truth and lie, and it felt delicious on her tongue. She grabbed the iron shovel from the hook in the foyer where it lived, and darted out through the door. Into the nectar-blue night.
The jasmine and moonlight scent tickled her nostrils as she ran through the wet lawn of the backyard. Rain was a dream from which the sky above had recently awoken, and memory of its fancies lingered on the blades of grass that tickled her ankles. She giggled with delight. It was rare, for the special blue to come so quickly after a rain. The clouds would trap the blue past her vision. But this was perfect. The ground was soft, and so fewer of them would shatter and disperse among the earth.
Limni climbed the fence where it was lowest, and leapt into Ms. Pearson’s year. She patted her lawn faerie on the head, a tiny tribute, and then flew past towards the fence that divided the yards from the fields beyond. The field was special, like the blue. The grass in the field was alive. Awake. It sang its seedling song up into the night. An invitation for anything bright that found itself flung from the darkening sky.
It wast he best place to find them.
Limni raced out into the tall grass, mindless of how the droplets of clinging rain-soaked the skirt of her night dress and raised goosebumps on her skin. She reached the middle of the field, and closed her eyes. She breathed in the scent of grass and pollen and night-blooming flowers. The song of the field rose up around her and filled the secret ears that lived behind her regular ears with its hidden music. Her dream ears, mother called them.
But mother didn’t really understand.
Limni threw out her arms, and let the night breeze dance against her skin. She closed her normal eyes, so that her dream eyes could see the trails of stardust and faerie lines and flowing secrets that swirled all around her. It was all so beautiful. Ethereal finger paint tracing its way along the canvas of the air. Even if she didn’t find anything, this was worth it. She stood there, just watching, as time and night trickled away like grains of sand.
And there it was. A dim, fiery trail off in the distance. A coal ember, smudged into a line of sparks against the black of the night that hid behind the blue. Limni smiled. She gripped her shovel in her hand and ran towards it.
The field-song rose in her ears as she ran, and the grass gripped at her ankles. No, it seemed to cry. No. We do not wish to let her go. She is too beautiful.
“I know,” Limni said to it as she ran. “I know, but she cannot stay. Her beauty will burn you up. You know this.”
We know, cried the song. We know, but still we cry.
“Yes,” said Limni. “We always cry.”
The trail was almost dimmed to nothing by the time she reached the spot. It was almost too late. Limni jabbed her shovel into the ground and dug furiously. The grass cried out about her, but it did not protest. It understood.
This patch of ground was stony, and filled with roots from an old tree. It was hard work, and her fingers ached as she jabbed the iron shovel over and over again into the earth. This one had fallen deep. If it was not for the softening of the soil by the rain, Limni would never have been able dig this far down.
She lifted a mound of dirt up from the ground, and her shovel began to vibrate. The resonance traveled through the handle, up through the blade, and made Limni’s entire body hum.
I found it!
She poured the contents of the shovel gently onto the ground. Then she brushed the dirt off. Carefully. Gingerly. Grain by grain. Soft light glowed through the soil as she brushed it away. It grew brighter, and brighter.
And there it was.
Limni’s breath caught in her chest, and tears filled her eyes. In front of her, the tiny, impossibly delicate crystalline form opened her magnificent eyes. They were the gembright blue of the sapphire of which all other sapphires are lifeless imitations. Despite their needle-tip size, the creature’s eyes seemed to fill the entire world.
“Where…where am I?” said the thing in its harp-string voice.
“You are in the field of singing grass,” Limni said once she found her voice.
The creature blinked. “What am I?”
“You are a star,” said Limni.
The star pointed its tiny, glassy finger up past Limni’s shoulder. Limni glanced to where she pointed. The special blue was nearly gone. There was only a small patch of it left, over in the distance, leaving the star to point at the ordinary, constellation-filled sky.
“No,” Limni shook her head. “Not one of those. A true star.”
“Oh,” said the star, with a pout of her lip. Her eyes stared into Limni’s, and the human girl gasped. “And who are you? Do you love me?”
“Very much,” said Limni, choking back a sob.
“I think I love you, too,” said the star. “Are you going to care for me?”
Limni shook her head. “I can’t. You don’t belong here. Your voice would shatter everyone’s dreams, and your fire would burn this field to cinders.”
The star cast her eyes down. “I don’t want that to happen. Am I going to die, then?”
“No!” Limni cried out. Tears streamed down her cheeks. “I’m going to send you home.”
The star smiled. “I think I would like that. I think I love you very much.”
Limni took the star gently in her hand, and stood up.
Hurry, the field sang urgently around them. There isn’t much time!
Limni looked up and saw the blue patch was almost gone. She pressed the star to her chest, tucked her head down, and ran. She ran and ran and ran. The grass moved aside to clear her way. The stardust stretched a bright path to her dream eyes, so she would not trip and fall into the darkness. Pain ran up Limni’s side, as she ran as fast as she had ever ran before.
Finally she arrived.
“Will this hurt?” asked the star.
“No,” said Limni. It was both truth and lie, and it felt bittersweet on her tongue.
“I don’t want to go,” said the star. “I want to stay with you.”
“I know,” sobbed Limni.
“But I have to.”
Limni lifted the star up far above her head, towards the patch in the sky. The star giggled in delight, and the crystal-chime sound danced out into the night.
“I remember my sisters, now,” said the star as it lifted out of Limni’s outstretched palm. “I remember them all.” She looked down at Limni with those sapphire eyes. “You would make a beautiful star.”
And she was gone.
“Did you have a good time, sweety?” said father from the couch as Limni took off her silver shoes and hung her iron shovel back on its hook.
“Yes, daddy,” she said.
“Did you remember to wipe your feet when you came in? You know your mother gets cross.”
“Good girl. Goodnight, my little star.”
Limni smiled. “Goodnight, daddy.”
She skipped up the stairs, traded her night dress for her nightgown, and slipped back into bed. She looked out into the window, into the ordinary star-filled sky. It was beautiful, too, in its own simple way. Then she closed her eyes and went to sleep.